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Chikungunya and Bird Flu – a reason to fear?

10.04.2006


Bird Flu and Chikungunya - we have all heard about it in the media. But is there a reason to be frightened and how big is the risk for you to catch these diseases in reality?



On 6 April the COST Office in Brussels organised a seminar on Bird Flu and Chikungunya, both viral infections of different kinds. Professor Marc van Ranst, the leading expert in this field from the University of Leuven informed the seminar about these two diseases and the actual risks that they represent for human beings.

Prof. van Ranst presentation showed that currently there is little risk for Europe regarding the Chikungunya virus (a tropical disease transferred by a particular species of mosquitoes). However, on the island of La Reunion a high percentage of the population is affected. In Europe some cases have been reported, affecting tourists coming back from their holiday on the Islands in the Indian Ocean. Prof. van Ranst concluded that there is practically no probability that the Chikungunya virus will be spread in Europe, because of the absence of the vector species.


The Bird Flu virus has already been recorded in Europe. Many people are afraid of an influenza pandemic such as that of 1918 in which more than 20 million people died. Prof. van Ranst clarified “the Bird Flu isn’t something extraordinary and has existed for a long time already.” Until now there is no evidence of a pandemic and the Bird Flu virus can only be transferred from an infected bird to a human being by very close contact. The transfer from human being to human being is practically impossible.

Prof. van Ranst concluded his report stating that currently there are other diseases we should be much more concerned about, such as HIV, malaria and tuberculosis. Tens of millions of people die due to these diseases every year - a fact neglected by the public in general and not reflected in adequate research efforts in particular.

Gabi Egartner | alfa
Further information:
http://www.cost.esf.org

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